Meet the Traveling Barista!

Sandy Lo with her most popular novel, Dream Catchers.

Sandy Lo with her most popular novel, Dream Catchers.

I mostly publicize my career in terms of my novels (available on Amazon, B&N, iBooks), shameless self-plugging is much needed as an indie author.  I am also not ashamed to spout out my love for all things John Travolta, Backstreet Boys, and Jared Leto either.  And I’ve always been quick to post a link to my Twitter on a new review I’ve written, celebrity I interviewed, or new music artist I am working with.

However, I’m careful when it comes to talking about that other thing… you know, that place I have spent about 8 years of my life at, serving the public… Unless you’re a friend or a family member, you may not know that I moonlight as a barista.  Or maybe I’m a barista who moonlights as an author/magazine editor/publicist.

I have a love/hate relationship with my job at a major coffee giant. (I shall not ever refer to it by name.  It’s kind of like Voldemort, ya know?)

The Traveling Barista is an idea I formed a few years ago when I decided to leave my native New York for my new home, Nashville.  I had already worked at 5 different locations of the coffee giant that shall not be named.

Since Nashville, which I left in 2013 to pursue some other career goals, I have worked in a Long Island location and now, I’m living in Anna Maria, Florida for a year.

I love that this coffee gig allows me to travel wherever the wind takes me.  I love how it offers stability in my crazy, whimsical, artistic life.  I receive a ton of perks for being a barista and meet some awesome people in whichever location I work in.  For this, I will always be grateful.  In the Traveling Barista, I will be sharing many stories and anecdotes from my 8 years in a caffeine-injected environment.

There is also a dark side to being a barista though…or to any job working with the consuming public.  Some coffee addicts are some of the most neurotic, picky, high maintenance, unhealthy jerks I have ever met.  Not to say that these people are always jerks, but when they walk through that door and approach your register to order, immediately they turn into monsters.  Not to say that I have never been one of these jerks… being a barista, I know all the tricks to get my coffee “just right”.  I hate hearing myself order sometimes.  I want to punch myself in the face!  Maybe this was the subconscious reason I decided to cut out coffee from my life.  Or maybe I didn’t want to be an unhealthy jerk either.  I found myself adding too much sweetener and soy milk… it’s not natural to drink 20 ounces of dairy (yes, even nonfat) or soy a day!  Just because the size is in Italian doesn’t change what the number means.

…End preach.

Photo from Arizona Coffee

Photo from Arizona Coffee

Since this is my first Traveling Barista post (Woo!), I thought it would be fun to look up the meaning of barista in the dictionary.

[buh-ris-tuh -ree-stuh; Italian bah-rees-tah]
noun: a person who is specially trained in the making and serving of coffee drinks, as in a coffee bar.

Well, that is exactly right, but it seemed too straight forward and simple.  I decided to take it a step further, knowing would not fail me in expressing all the love/hate that makes up my day job.  And I was right!

1. barista
Pretentious sounding word used by dejected art history and drama majors that describes their employment in order to make themselves feel better about serving coffee.

This one I should resent, but I understand it.  I do hate when people look down on me for being a barista though.  I actually get paid fairly decent, receive health benefits, life insurance, stock, and tons of free coffee and tea.  What makes your job so much better?  Besides, I can go anywhere in the country and work and take time off whenever I want.  Oh, and I still get to publish novels and run a magazine.  (Someone remind me of this speech whenever I get down on myself for still working at a coffee shop.  Thanks in advance.)

2. Barista
A person who works in a coffee shop. More than likely, a person who puts up with large variables of bull shit from snobby customers throughout his/her work shift.
“Hey, what do you do?”
“I’m a Barista “
“Oh, I’m sorry…”
“Yeah man…It’s okay.”

Hahaha! Amen!

3. barista
Snobby f*ck who makes coffee.
That damn barista started yelling at me for ordering my coffee ‘to-go’.

Confession: That is something I would do.  Well, not quite.  You’ll find I get irritated when customers waste cups (or anything really).  I hate when people who want things double cupped, or like this one regular I have now, who gets his coffee triple cupped with a sleeve.  How sensitive are his freaking hands?!  Other than my internal struggle every time I serve this guy, I am quite pleasant to him.  Really, I am.

4. Barista
A hipster that works at Starbucks and serves coffee in uber-cool style that a hipster would.
“I’m afraid of that barista. Too much hipster crap going on.”
“Am i wearing my diaper today? I hope so because I have to get some coffee from that barista.”
“Hey, when is my hipster coffee going to be ready? May as well go ask that barista.”

Okay, Urban Dictionary…this one is a little much.  First off, the real hipsters do not work at Starbucks.  In Nashville, there are so many hipster coffee shops with baristas that are the epitome of this definition.

So, this was fun.  Feel free to leave some comments and questions.  I’ll be happy to answer them or discuss it in my next post.

Until then, this is Sandy Lo saying have a nice day.  Oh, and remember to tip your barista.  Not for helping you, but for helping the rude customer in front of you.


  • Sandy Lo

    Sandy Lo’s personal story is inspiring. She started, StarShine Magazine, an online publication in 2001, at the age of 18. She wrote her first novel in 2009, “Lost In You,” followed by the “Dream Catchers” Series. She was the first person ever to professionally interview Taylor Swift and has received personal endorsements for her books from members of boy bands Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees. Recently, she has been seeing some tremendous momentum in book sales on Kindle. She has been included on the “50 Writers You Should Be Reading” list by The Authors Show, and “Dream Catchers”, “Breaking The Moon” and “Indigo Waters” reached the Top 100 Best Selling Coming of Age novels in Amazon’s Kindle Store. What makes this even more unique, is that Sandy relocated from NY to Nashville in order to write “The Watch Dog,” which is set in a fictional town outside of Music City. “The Watch Dog” reached the Top 10 Ghost Stories on Amazon. Aside from her writing projects, Sandy is also a freelance digital strategist.